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Workers' Weekly Internet Edition: Article Index : ShareThis
The Battle for the Future of the NHS:
All Out for March 4!
The Isle of Wight Council:
An Example of the Usurpation of Public Authority by Private Interests
Nuclear safety in the hands of the monopolies:
Nuclear Power Plant Explosion in North West France
Noor Inayat Khan Memorial Trust:
Inaugural Noor Memorial Lecture Held at SOAS
Centenary of the Great October Revolution:
Hail the Centenary of the Great October Revolution
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26,000 crammed into Whitehall on the evening of January 30
The inauguration of the oligarch Donald Trump as the 45th President of the United States on January 20, followed by his issuing of executive orders on January 25 and 27 attacking the rights of immigrants and the conception and responsibilities of citizenship, has fuelled opposition not only in the US and North America but throughout the world, including Britain.
These executive orders, now temporarily banned by the US courts but which Trump vows still to implement one way or another, have been condemned as not only violating the principles of the recognised international rule of law governing state-to-state relations, but crucially as attacking the rights of immigrants and attempting to criminalise them. Demonstrations spontaneously broke out condemning the restriction of entry into the US of refugees and most citizens of Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Yemen and Syria. The sentiment of the demonstrations was to declare that No One Is Illegal, that this is a moment when no one can stay silent and stand by, and to condemn the measures as destabilising, warmongering, racist and destructive.
Cardiff, January 30
In Britain, demonstrators crammed Whitehall on January 30, and on February 4 demonstrations were organised across the country, including as many as 40,000 from all walks of life in London. February 4 was a Day of Action across the globe. The call in Britain was not only to condemn the ban and its state-organised racism and to defend the rights of immigrants and refugees and to oppose Islamophobia, but to demand that, following Theresa May's recent visit to hold hands with Trump, the invitation for a state visit be downgraded. This is also the demand of the petition signed by well over one million, that should Trump visit Britain, it must be at a lower protocol level than a state visit. In the House of Commons, the Speaker, John Bercow, affirmed that he would not countenance President Trump addressing Parliament, which was met by applause.
It was on January 30 that the Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson, claimed to have received assurances from the US embassy that Trump's executive order would make no difference to any British passport holder, irrespective of their country of birth or whether they hold another passport, a statement upon which doubt has been cast. However, it remains the case that the countries targeted by the executive order have all been targets of US destabilisation, regime change and interference under the past two US administrations. Not only this, but successive British governments have been the partners in crime of the US in bombings, invasion, occupation and destructive interference of these states.
Glasgow, January 30
This Anglo-US imperialist alliance must be condemned as a tool of US imperialist hegemony, as well as the reactionary programme of the British government of "Making Britain Great Again", in conjunction with the Trump doctrine of "Making America Great Again". Boris Johnson declared of this alliance that it was of "vital importance". He continued: "On defence, intelligence and security, we work together more closely than any other two countries in the world. That relationship is overwhelmingly to our benefit. The Prime Minister's highly successful visit to the White House last week underlined the strength of that transatlantic alliance." This alliance is not an alliance of equals but sees Britain as the junior partner and faithful ally of the US in its programme of strengthening the warmongering NATO alliance, imposing the dictate of the US-led imperialist system of states, and committing crimes against peace and against humanity.
The government has been utilising the Brexit vote to strengthen this alliance with the US, especially allying itself with its reactionary programme of state terrorism and racism, of warmongering, militarism and destabilisation, and the fomenting of anarchy and violence.
In opposition the people are uniting in action to defend the rights of all. It is this resistance struggle of the people united in action which itself must and will open the path to progress, as they advance their cause of creating new and modern arrangements which favour them and over which they can exercise control, as the old forms and content are spent, reactionary and create only further dangers for the people. It is vital to step up the organised and conscious struggle to defend the rights of all and to establish an anti-war government in Britain. The demand of the people in struggle is to end the Anglo-US imperialist alliance, to build the new arrangements and ensure that the fight to defend the rights of all is crowned with success.
Edinburgh, January 30
Manchester, January 30
Bristol, January 30
Newcastle, January 30
Leeds, January 30
Leicester, January 30
40,000 demonstrate in London, February 4
London, February 4
Ireland, Dublin - US Embassy
US, San Francisco January 30
Canada, Ottowa January 30
At the end of January, Prime Minister Theresa May made a speech to the Republican Party conference in the US in which she outlined her understanding of what is often referred to as the "special relationship" between Britain and the US. May's speech was made in the context of Britain's imminent departure from the reactionary EU of the monopolies, and indicates that the ruling circles of Britain aim to move even closer to the reactionary course on which the US appears to have embarked under the presidency of Donald Trump.
It was clear from the first lines of May's speech that she would go out of her way not only to distort the nature of the relationship between Britain and the US but also the history and nature of the US itself. It was in this context that she spoke of the "textbook of freedom" being written in the US and that country carrying the "heavy responsibility" of leading the "free world". With overtones of presenting Anglo-American imperialism as jointly taking up the "white man's burden", May spoke of a special relationship "that has defined the modern world". She wished to present this relationship as the greatest defender of freedom and democracy, rather than its worst enemy.
According to May's rendering of history, it was Britain and the US that defeated fascism during the course of the Second World War, rather than the anti-fascist coalition of the world's peoples led by the Soviet Union. May seems to forget that the US and Britain were two of the main powers that financed and nurtured the emergence of fascism, hoping to use it against the peoples' struggles and especially against the Soviet Union. She was rather more accurate in her boast that Anglo-American imperialism played a leading role during the Cold War, but altogether premature in her assessment that Communism has been defeated.
The essence of May's reactionary speech was that Britain and the US have been responsible for all the essential machinery of the capital-centred world, the United Nations, the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and NATO, and that Anglo-American imperialism should continue to dominate these institutions and make sure that they adhere to their Anglocentric values. In this regard, May did not hesitate to quote from Churchill about the "joint inheritance of the English-speaking world" and sermonise about "freedom, liberty and the rights of man".
Moreover, May also identified herself with what she referred to as the underlying principles of the Trump administration and the "new era of American renewal". As she put it, a "newly emboldened confident America is good for the world". May was eager to show that her government is more than willing to share the burden of world leadership with the US and indeed has already taken steps to do so, by virtue of the extent of its spending on war preparations, including nuclear preparations, its warmongering activity in NATO, and its economic and military intervention throughout the world. The Prime Minister pointed out that, as a result of Britain's departure from the EU, it was in now in a unique position both to continue to be a major player within Europe but also strengthen its position as "Global Britain", with a more "internationalist role", "where we meet our responsibilities to our friends and allies, champion the international co-operation and partnerships that project our values around the world, and continue to act as one of the strongest and most forceful advocates for business, free markets and free trade anywhere around the globe". This appears to signal that May's government it set to strengthen its neo-colonial grip on the former empire, and on a warmongering course of even more intervention alongside the US and on its own account.
According to May, both Britain and the US are in the current circumstances undergoing a process of "renewal" and so what is required is that they also renew their "special relationship" and lead the world together against the "enemies of the West and our values". For May, such enemies include not only what she refers to as "Radical Islamists", but also China, Russia and others that might eventually eclipse the hegemony of Anglo-American imperialism and its allies, as well as those who adhere to any form of "extremism". In this regard May's speech was a call to arms, a reactionary warmongering speech threatening all those who do not accept the values of neo-liberal globalisation as championed by Anglo-American imperialism. It openly threatened Russia, Iran and other countries, demanded that NATO is ready for war, and that the UN acts as the organisation of the imperialist system of states with Anglo-American imperialism at its head.
In short, May is demanding that Britain tie itself more firmly to the coat-tails of the US, that it becomes an even closer trading, economic, political and military ally and that Anglo-American imperialism continues to lead the world on a reactionary and warmongering course. However, the people of Britain and the US have other interests. It is clear that the struggles for genuine sovereignty must be stepped up. The working class and all democratic people must create the conditions for an anti-war government and the demand must be raised that the "special relationship" be brought to an end!
London Keep Our NHS Public (KONP) Co-ordinating Committee held a meeting on January 24, with representatives of the many campaigns to safeguard the future of the health service that are mushrooming all over London. The discussion centred on the significance of the coming "Our NHS" demonstration on March 4. Local KONP committees are also active in many parts of England, and are mobilising for the March 4 demonstration.
Thus demonstration is going to be a powerful event, a focus for the intense anger over the NHS across the country. "We are building a movement, not just a demonstration" said John Lister, a long-standing health campaigner. Support is gathering fast from unions, the British Medical Association, health campaigns, political figures and parties.
There was a palpable enthusiasm that the opposition to the barbaric undermining and underfunding of the NHS is not just growing in size, but also in quality and depth. This is evident, for example, in grasping and unravelling the main issues and bringing these to the attention of the public, such as the Sustainability and Transformation Plans (STPs). People agreed that the work for the demonstration will help build the movement, work in which local health campaigns, Keep Our NHS Public and Health Campaigns Together are already playing key roles. It is this - the independent movement with its own aims and programme - that will prove decisive.
As part of the government's continuing austerity drive, the Isle of Wight Unitary Authority projects further reductions in funding on top of those it has had already. There is now a budget deficit of £20m forecast over the period 2017/18 to 2019/20.
The government's neo-liberal agenda for what it calls the devolution of local authorities is in reality centralisation, an example being the proposals for the dissolution of Oxfordshire's six local authorities and the replacement by a new super-council and elected mayor, introducing a new layer of party-dominated cabinet government at that level. In tandem with such plans, existing councils, such as the Isle of Wight County Council, are becoming openly capital-centric so that these bodies of elected pro-community councillors are turned into business-oriented authorities acting arbitrarily in the interests of, in particular, the powerful monopolies.
Following the Brexit vote, the devolution proposals have incorporated the EU-inspired enterprise partnerships - unelected business-run organisations such as the Solent Enterprise Partnership - that replaced the regional development agencies. These have more or less taken control of all funding and investment arrangements for the entire region. The intention is also to create localised investment zones, supposedly for regeneration, but in actuality to derive added-value from the locality in favour of the monopolies that control these partnerships and newly-created regeneration committees.
The neo-liberal austerity policy has forced the issue and served to reduce the remits of unitary authorities away from acting so much as providers of services and community schemes to purely business interests. Over a period of time, the government and local quislings have engineered a coup in the Isle of Wight Council in order to implement the central policy of corporate control of the local authority in order to transform its role. Austerity measures have taken the local authority to near bankruptcy and local ruin. Finance and sustainability have become a pretext for these actions.
The Council has developed a Medium Term Financial Strategy (MTFS) to address that "financial challenge". Detracting from government cuts and abdication of responsibility for people's services, the Council has slashed and undermined services and outsourced them to Private Finance Initiatives (PFI). It has issued contracts for waste disposal and given away whole bus routes and wound up Council-run services. These services are now well and truly in the hands of monopolies like the Go Ahead Group that runs Southern Vectis buses, Amey Waste and Eurovia (PFI).
The Financial Strategy described the financial challenge as the single biggest risk to sustainable public services on the Island, claiming that the Council needs to resolutely maximise the deployment of the resources that it does have (revenue, capital, property and staff) towards driving additional income, funding and cost-savings to secure Council services for the future. They refer to labour as a "cost", giving the impression that labour is a burden and not the source of added-value, and on this basis making Council workers redundant.
The Strategy emphasises improving the economy and growing the income and funding base of the Council. This means attracting big business through lucrative schemes, matched funding for specific capital projects and business incentives. In the final analysis, it facilitates the claim of the monopolies on the added-value, the social product, so as to fill their own pockets rather than claims being made by the people towards investment in the services they require.
The government-inspired Council talks about "creating a prosperous and sustainable Island community built on the pillars of regeneration, growth and productivity." Yet it is growth and productivity for whom? Prosperity for whom? "Prosperity" which, it should be pointed out, is to be funded out of the council tax-payers' purses.
The funding base comprises business rates, council tax and the government grant. Without the government grant, the funding of this new style business-authority means that it must "become a more entrepreneurial and commercial Council as a means to generate income" and they are saying that this is the only way to "avoid service reductions". This, their corporate benefactors' manipulative logic, is meant to appeal to people's desire and sentiment to sustain services.
Through a "Public Service Transformation" programme, much of the provision of services will be outsourced to private companies so that this provision no longer within the Council's remit as such; this is replace by business transactions and deals. The Council refers to "duplication and cost" in this respect, as a further pretext for handing the running of essential services to companies that pay dividends to shareholders and more readily claim added-value for themselves.
Another source of funding for this business-centric Council will be the Government's Retained Business Rates system. Devolved councils are to be funded in the same way. In place of direct funding, the complex formula includes the retention of 50% of all business rates. These rates are capped, with promises of reductions, and are without connection to the added-value of the product these businesses make. For 2017/18, Isle of Wight Retained Business Rates are estimated at £19.5m. The government and the state have estimated the future of business rates which is to increase by the rate of inflation only (as estimated by the Office for Budget Responsibility). It understood that, to attract the monopolies, they will not pay towards local government any more than they themselves are prepared to offer.
The Council's conclusions, which they say are confirmed from public "consultation" are that the Council should seek to generate income to pay for services rather than make cuts. Paying for services is a fraud because there is no intent to retain these services within the authority. Outsourced services will be pumped up by expensive, over-inflated costs that serve big business. It is key in their capital-centred outlook to secure investment and funding for business growth and "work with others", such as creating business partners, to improve services and reduce "costs".
The plan for the Isle of Wight Council to become a business-centred rather than a community-centred authority is fundamental to the neo-liberal aim of increasing the ability of the monopolies to increase their claim on the value added by the workers in the region. The fight is now against the government and their authority who are implementing austerity. It includes the fight against this transformation into a monopoly-serving business-centred authority operated by the local politicians acting in cohorts with the state and government. It is a fight for the rights of all to public services and a democratic and pro-human and community-centred Council.
Isle of Wight Council Committee report, "Budget and council tax setting 2017/18 and future years forecast", https://www.scribd.com/document/338124366/Isle-of-Wight-council-budge-papers-Feb-2017#from_embed
The Flamanville nuclear power plant operated by energy monopoly Électricité de France (EDF) in North West France, 30 miles from Jersey and opposite the Isle of Wight, was hit by a large blast and fire on Thursday, February 9, when a ventilator exploded in the engine room. People in the locality and workers are reported to be affected by smoke inhalation, though there were no casualties.
The seriousness of the incident is being downplayed and it has received little coverage. In a statement, EDF described the explosion as "minor", dealt with "as per normal procedure", and claimed that "there were no consequences for safety at the plant or for environmental safety."
While officials stressed that it was a technical, not a nuclear incident, Neil Hyatt, professor of radioactive waste management at Sheffield University said: "Any incident of this kind at a nuclear power plant is very serious, and the national and international regulators will want to undertake a thorough investigation to understand the cause and lessons to be learned."
John Large, a respected nuclear engineer, said that the explosion and fire "could have a knock-on effect" because of the "close proximity" of the engine room, steam production and spent fuel stored in nearby ponds.
The incident comes in the wake of a damning investigation last year into the state of EDF's nuclear facilities, which resulted in 13 of its 58 plants being taken offline in December. It is also not the first such incident: in June 2011, the Tricastin plant in Drôme in the Rhône valley was also hit by an explosion and fire, days after authorities had raised a catalogue of 32 safety issues at the plant.
A new third-generation reactor at Flamanville is under construction, set to be the largest in the world. The project has gone massively over schedule and budget, which stands at 10.5 billion; completion is currently expected in 2018, having being originally planned for 2012.
EDF owns and operates the world's largest fleet of civilian nuclear reactors, including eight of Britain's ten nuclear power stations. The monopoly is currently on course to build three new reactors in Britain, at Hinkley Point C in Somerset, Sizewell C in Suffolk and Bradwell B in Essex.
The inaugural Annual Noor Memorial Lecture was held at SOAS in London on February 7, jointly organised by the Noor Inayat Khan Memorial Trust and SOAS South Asia Institute. To a packed lecture hall, Shrabani Basu, Noor's biographer and founder of the Trust, explained that the Trust existed to keep alive, especially among young people, the memory and spirit of Noor Inayat Khan, the Special Operations Executive agent in wartime occupied France, who was captured, cruelly incarcerated, tortured and executed at Dachau by the Nazis in 1944. She said that, true to its promise made at the unveiling of her bust in nearby Gordon Square in 2012, the Trust had carried forward its work and, having already established an Annual Noor Prize at SOAS, was now holding the first Annual Noor Memorial Lecture, in what would be called the Liberté Series. "Liberté!" was the cry of Noor as the fatal shot rang out at Dachau.
The inaugural lecture entitled "The Struggle for Human Rights in India" was given by Vrinda Grover, a noted Advocate at the Indian Supreme Court and human rights campaigner. In her talk, Vrinda Grover highlighted in particular, from her personal experience as their lawyer, a number of immensely brave women who had taken up the fight for justice - despite huge difficulties and intimidation - after having been subjected to appalling acts of gang rape and other sexual violence carried out as a deliberate policy amidst state-organised and inspired communal violence and state terror in such places as Uttar Pradesh, Bastar in Chhattisgarh, Gujarat and Kashmir, among others. She spoke movingly too regarding torture and extra-judicial killings and the struggle against judicial complicity and indifference and the impunity of the armed state forces.
In an informative Q&A session moderated by broadcaster Razia Iqbal, Vrinda Grover emphasised that such fierce resistance and refusal to be cowed whatever the odds, reminiscent of the spirit of Noor, gave great hope for the battles which lie ahead. She emphasised the need for an alternative to the current direction in India, as part of a growing global movement in these troubled times.
The event ended with prolonged and warm applause.
V I Lenin declares Soviet power at the historic meeting of the Second All-Russia Congress
of Soviets at Bolshevik headquarters, St Petersburg, Russia, November 7, 1917
(Detail from "Lenin proclaims Soviet power" by Vladimir Serov, 1947)
This year marks the centenary of the Great October Socialist Revolution, in which the working people of Russia, led by the Communist Party headed by V. I. Lenin, overthrow the existing political system of capitalists and feudal landowners, established their own state and political power and began the construction of a new socialist system. The October Revolution of 1917 showed that the workers and peasant farmers, those who were the producers of wealth, could be their own liberators and models. The Revolution also showed the importance of the new organisations of popular power, the soviets, comprising delegates of workers, farmers, soldiers and sailors.
The October Revolution also demonstrated in practice the full validity of the science of Marxism, which had been developed in the previous century, and had been enriched and further developed by Lenin in the new era of imperialism and the concrete conditions of Russia. The October Revolution showed the necessity of revolutionary theory and a revolutionary party armed with this theory to organise and guide the working class to victory. It showed that Communist Party had to use this theory to analyse the concrete situation within the country, to raise the consciousness of the working class regarding their interests, aims and historic mission, the perfidy of those who wished to conciliate to maintain the status quo, and the necessity of the working class itself seizing political power.
The October Revolution demonstrated that only the revolutionary path could empower the working class and people, resolve all the contradictions inherent in the capital-centred system and usher in the alternative. Only by taking this path could the majority empower themselves and place their interests and needs at the centre of society. It demonstrated the need of the workers to smash the entire state apparatus of the existing capitalist system and build anew their own workers' state, army and political institutions based, in Russia, on the soviets of workers, peasant farmers and the new Red Army. The Revolution was the act of the soviets led by the Communists, which placed power in the hands of the soviets.
Far from being a coup, as those who disparage the October Revolution claim, it developed out of a revolutionary crisis in Russia produced by the demands of the working people to end their economic exploitation and political oppression, a situation exacerbated by the severe conditions of the First World War. Its first major manifestation was the revolutionary events of February/March 1917, when the army mutinied and refused to suppress demonstrations by women and other working people demanding food, land redistribution and an end to war. Though the revolutionary crisis led to the collapse of the Tsarist regime, it continued throughout the remainder of the year as the representatives of the rich, who attempted to replace the Tsar, were unable or unwilling to meet the demands and needs of the people.
The October Revolution came in midst of war. The first acts of the new Soviet power demonstrated the nature of an anti-war government, a government that acts in the interests of peace and the working people of all countries. The new government immediately withdrew from the predatory First World War, even though this meant ceding territory, and exposed the imperialist character of that war by publishing the secret treaties established between Russia and its allies, including Britain, for the re-division of the world between the major powers. The Soviet government also proposed an end to the war and a negotiated peace, a proposal rejected by Britain and the other big powers. The existence of this anti-war government was a great blow to the major imperialist powers. Its principled stands became known to the armed forces of all the belligerent countries and led to more general demands for peace. In some countries, this even gave rise to mutinies and strikes, and in Germany, a revolutionary crisis.
The October Revolution was the first break in the chain of imperialist states. It showed that the working and oppressed people could empower themselves, opening up the prospect of liberation for all the oppressed, not just those in the economically developed capitalist countries. The Revolution established a base from which global struggle for national liberation and social emancipation could be supported, in those nations that had been oppressed in the Russian empire as well as in other countries. It was a great inspiration to all those struggling for liberation; in its immediate aftermath, there were also revolutionary uprisings in Germany, Hungary, Bulgaria and other countries. The October Revolution was hailed by oppressed and exploited people all over the world, in African, Asia and colonial countries, as well as amongst the organised workers in Europe, North America and other economically developed countries. It led to the creation of new Communist Parties in many countries including Britain.
In Britain, the revolutionary events in Russia were immediately supported by the workers' movement and progressive people and bitterly opposed and attacked by the government, monopoly controlled media and reactionaries. For its part, the British government refused to recognise the existence of the new Soviet government or to have any diplomatic or trade relations with it. Furthermore, it led military intervention in Soviet Russia and an economic blockade of that country, alongside thirteen other countries including France, Japan and the United States, with the aim of aiding the counter-revolutionary forces, instigating civil war and overthrowing the gains of the Revolution. The working class in Britain rallied to support Soviet Russia and established what became known as the "Hands off Russia" campaign, which demanded an end to military and all external intervention in Russia and that normal diplomatic and trading relations be established between Britain and Soviet Russia. Such was the support for the October Revolution in Britain that both the Labour Party and TUC were compelled to support the demands of the campaign.
The October Revolution was the most important political event of the 20th century. It demonstrated that the working class could take power and establish its own people-centred political and economic system; it demonstrated that there was an alternative to the capital-centred system. The celebration of the centenary of that great event is however not just an opportunity to celebrate and reflect on an important historic event. The question for the working class and for all progressive people is how to learn from this event in 2017. It points to the need to learn lessons from history so that, in the twenty first century, we too are able to open up the revolutionary path to progress, establish an anti-war government, create the conditions where the working class can empower itself and build the new people-centred society which puts the needs of the working class and people in first place.
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